Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Special Message to the Congress on Food for India and on Other Steps To Be Taken in an International War on Hunger.

February 02, 1967

To the Congress of the United States:


Last February I proposed that all mankind join in a war against man's oldest enemy: hunger.

Last March I proposed that the United States take part in an urgent international effort to help the Government of India stave off the threat of famine.

I address you today to report progress in organizing the war against hunger and to seek your counsel on steps still to be taken. For again this year, drought in India--as in other nations--underlines the cruel mathematics of hunger and calls for action.

The problem is immense. It cannot be solved unless each country reaches a considered judgment on the course to be pursued. The greatest power on earth is the will of free peoples, expressed through the deliberative processes of their national assemblies. I ask you today to take the lead in a vital act of democratic affirmation.

India is not alone in facing the specter of near famine. One-half of the world's people confront this same problem. India's plight reminds us that our generation can no longer evade the growing imbalance between food production and population growth. India's experience teaches that something more must be done about it.

From our own experience and that of other countries, we know that something can be done. We know that an agricultural revolution is within the capacity of modern science.

We know that land can be made to produce much more food--enough food for the world's population, if reasonable population policies are pursued. Without some type of voluntary population program, however, the nations of the world--no matter how generous-will not be able to keep up with the food problem.

We know, too, that failure to act--and to act now--will multiply the human suffering and political unrest, not only in our generation but in that of our children and their children.

The aim of the war against hunger is to help developing nations meet this challenge. It is the indispensable first step on the road to progress.

If we are to succeed, all nations--rich and poor alike--must join together and press the agricultural revolution with the same spirit, the same energy, and the same sense of urgency that they apply to their own national defense. Nothing less is consistent with the human values at stake.

Last year, many responded to India's emergency. Canada was particularly generous in sending food aid. Each member of the India Aid Consortium made a special effort to meet India's need. Non-members, Australia among others, also helped. The private contributions of the Italian and Dutch people were especially heartwarming. But the bleak facts require a sustained international effort on a greater scale. Today I propose that all nations make the new Indian emergency the occasion to start a continuing worldwide campaign against hunger.


The first obligation of the community of man is to provide food for all of its members. This obligation overrides political differences and differences in social systems.

No single nation or people can fulfill this common obligation. No nation should be expected to do so. Every country must participate to insure the future of all. Every country that makes a determined effort to achieve sufficiency in food will find our government, our technical experts and our people its enthusiastic partners. The United States is prepared to do its share.

In pursuing the War on Hunger, the world must face up to stark new facts about food in our times.

--Food is scarce. Nowhere is there a real surplus. Food aid must be allocated according to the same priorities that govern other development assistance.

--Per capita food production in many parts of the less-developed world is not increasing. In some cases, it is even declining. This grim fact reflects both a rising curve of population and a lagging curve of agricultural production.

--There is no substitute for self-help. The first responsibility of each nation is to supply the food its people needs. The war against hunger can only be won by the efforts of the developing nations themselves.

--Food aid is a stop-gap, not a permanent cure. It must be viewed as part of a nation's effort to achieve sufficiency in food, not as a substitute for it.

--Agriculture must receive a much higher priority in development plans and programs. The developing nations can no longer take food supplies for granted, while they concentrate on industrial development alone, or spend vitally needed resources on unnecessary military equipment.

--Agricultural development must be planned as part of a nation's overall economic and social program. Achieving a balance between population and resources is as important as achieving a balance between industrial and agricultural growth.

--Fertilizer, seed, and pesticides must be provided in much greater quantities than ever before. Their use increases food production and permanently changes the productive capability of farmers. A ton of fertilizer properly used this year can mean several tons of grain next year.

--All advanced nations--including those which import food--must share the burden of feeding the hungry and building their capacity to feed themselves.

--The War on Hunger is too big/or governments alone. Victory cannot come unless businessmen, universities, foundations, voluntary agencies and cooperatives join the battle.

--Developing nations with food deficits must put more of their resources into voluntary family planning programs.

These are the facts your Government has been stressing throughout the world. Many of them are unpleasant. But our lives are pledged to the conviction that free people meet their responsibilities when they face the truth.

These facts draw into bold relief the two main thrusts in the offensive against hunger:

First, the hungry nations of the world must be helped to achieve the capacity to grow the food their people need or to buy what they cannot grow.

Second, until they can achieve this goal, the developed nations must help meet their needs by food shipments on generous terms.

The level of food aid will decline as self-help measures take hold. Until that point is reached, food aid is an inescapable duty of the world community.


During the past year, the advanced nations have made progress in preparing the ground for the international War on Hunger.

First, the pattern of international cooperation has steadily improved.

Last July we were pleased to act as host to a high-level meeting of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which focused primarily on the world food problem.

We encouraged greater contributions to the World Food Program by increasing our pledge to that program and by offering to match with commodities contributions in both cash and commodities from other countries.

We co-sponsored a resolution in the United Nations that launched a UN-Food and Agriculture Organization study of whether and how to organize a multilateral food aid program of vastly larger proportions.

In the Kennedy Round of trade negotiations, we have advanced a proposal to make available from all sources ten million tons of food grains annually for food aid, to be supported by grain exporters and importers alike. This proposal is now being discussed in Geneva as part of an International Cereals Arrangement.

We are now participating in a study initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization-in cooperation with the World Bank, the UN and the OECD--to examine how multilateral action might increase the availability and effective use of fertilizers and other materials needed to speed up agricultural production.

At the OECD Ministerial Meeting this fall, we advanced a proposal to develop an Agricultural Food Fund to encourage private investment in the basic agricultural industries of the developing countries.

Second, the United States encouraged a multilateral response to last year's emergency in India.

The worst drought of the century threatened millions with starvation and countless more with disease born of malnutrition. As a result, I recommended, and you in the Congress approved a program to send over 8 million tons of food grain to India. In an unprecedented display of common concern, governments, private organizations and individuals in 42 other nations joined in providing $180 million in food and other commodities to meet the needs of that country. Over-all, India imported almost 11 million tons of grain and used several million tons from its own emergency food reserves.

The fact that India did not experience famine ranks among the proudest chapters in the history of international cooperation. But last year's effort--heartening as it was--was hasty and improvised. The world must organize its response to famine--both today and for the years ahead.

Third, this year's economic aid program makes agricultural development a primary objective.

The AID program which I will shortly send to the Congress, includes funds to finance imports of fertilizer, irrigation pumps, and other American equipment and know-how necessary to improve agriculture in the developing countries.

Fourth, I proposed and the Congress enacted far-reaching legislation which provides the strong foundation for the new Food for Freedom program.

The central theme of the program is self-help. The legislation authorized concessional sales of food to countries which prove their determination to expand their own food production.


All of us know where the real battle is fought. Whatever the efforts in world capitals, the real tale is told on the land. It is the man behind the mule--or the bullock-or the water buffalo--who must be reached. Only his own government and his own people can reach him.

Thus, the most important progress of the past year has occurred in the developing countries themselves. And there is progress to report.

India--the largest consumer of food aid-perhaps provides the best example.

This has been a year of innovation in Indian agriculture. Agricultural development now has top priority in India's economic plan. Much remains to be done. But the evidence is unmistakable. India has started on the right path. India has:

--Imposed a food rationing system to make efficient use of existing supplies.

--Streamlined its transportation system to improve distribution.

--Increased prices paid to the farmer, thus providing new incentives to use fertilizer, improved seeds and other modern materials.

--Begun large-scale operations with new varieties of rice introduced from Taiwan and with large quantities of high-yielding wheat seed imported from Mexico.

--Approved plans to increase public investment in agriculture by more than 100% during the new Five Year Plan.

--Started to expand rural credit, improve water supply and accelerate the distribution of fertilizer to remote areas.

--Stepped up family planning.

--Negotiated an agreement for the first of several externally financed fertilizer plants to expand India's supply of home-produced fertilizers. India is off to a good start. But it is only a start. As Indian officials have warned, hard work remains in reaching targets they have set and in improving cooperation among state governments. India's economic problems are enormous. But they can be solved.

What India has begun to do represents the growing realization in the developing world that long-term economic growth is dependent on growth in agriculture. Not every country has made an effort as great as India's. But in some countries, production has improved more rapidly.

Everywhere there is an air of change. No longer does industrial development alone attract the best minds and talents. Agriculture is now attracting the young and more enterprising economists, administrators, and entrepreneurs in the developing world.

This is the best measure of progress in the War on Hunger and the best assurance of success.


India's food problem requires a major commitment of our resources and those of other advanced countries. India's population is equal to that of 66 members of the United Nations.

Broad authority exists under our legislation for national action by Executive decision alone. But the issues presented here are of such moment, and on such a scale, as to make it important that we act together, as we do on other great issues, on the firm foundation of a Joint Resolution of Congress.

I ask you to support the broad approach we have proposed to the international community as a basic strategy for the War on Hunger. That strategy rests on three essential principles:

1. Self help. The War on Hunger can be won only by the determined efforts of the developing nations themselves. International aid can help them. But it can only help if they pursue well-conceived and well-executed long-range plans of their own.

2. Multilateral participation. The assistance of the international community must be organized in a coalition of the advanced and the developing nations.

3. Comprehensive planning. The international community must develop a comprehensive plan to assist India to fulfill its program of achieving food sufficiency, not only during this year, but for the next few years as well.

Most of you are familiar with the events of the past year. Drought limited India's food grain production to 72 million tons in the 1965-66 crop year, compared with a record 88 million tons the previous year. A massive international emergency program met the immediate crisis. But India had to use precious food reserves--that are thus not available to meet the shortages created by a second successive bad crop.

The weather since then has brought little relief. The general outlook is slightly improved, and over-all production may reach 79 million tons this year. But late last summer a severe drought hit heavily-populated areas in north-central India. Unless Indian production is supplemented by substantial imports--perhaps 10 million tons by present estimates for calendar 1967--more than 70 million people will experience near famine.

The Government of India has already taken internal measures to move grain from its more fortunate areas to the drought areas. Imports of 2.3 million tons of grain are now in the pipeline to meet India's needs for the first two or three months of 1967. India has purchased some 200,000 tons of this grain with her own scarce foreign exchange. Canada with 185,000 tons, Australia with 150,000 tons and the Soviet Union with 200,000 tons have already joined the United States with its 1.6 million tons, in an impressive multilateral effort to help.

India's immediate problem--and the world's problem--is to fill the remaining gap for the balance of this year.

Because these facts bear heavily on the extent of US food shipments, I have requested and received careful verification from our Ambassador in New Delhi, from the Secretary of Agriculture and from members of Congress, who have recently been in India, including Senator McGee and Senator Moss.

I am particularly grateful to Representative Poage and Representative Dole and Senator Miller, who at my request made a special trip to India in December to assess the situation on the ground. Their careful and thorough analysis of the situation in India and their recommendations to me have been of great value.

During the last two weeks, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and the Under Secretary of Agriculture have consulted in New Delhi and with most members of the World Bank's India Consortium.

The work of all these men and the diplomatic efforts of the Government of India have laid the foundation for the steps we must now take.

The United States cannot--and should not--approach this problem alone or on an improvised basis. We must support the Indian Government's efforts to enlist the aid of other nations in developing a systematic and international approach to the problems of Indian agriculture. Our long term objective is to help India achieve its goal of virtual self-sufficiency in grain by the early 1970's. Meanwhile, as part of that effort, we must help India meet its immediate food needs.


In line with policies established by the Congress, and after promising consultations with the Government of India and other governments involved, I recommend the following steps to achieve these objectives:

First: Our basic policy is to approach the problem of Indian food through the India Aid Consortium organized under the chairmanship of the World Bank. That Consortium has already developed a multilateral approach to economic assistance for India. Now, we propose to make food aid a part of that multilateral assistance program. We seek effective multilateral arrangements to integrate Indian food aid with broader programs of economic assistance and with capital and technical assistance for agricultural development.

In a preliminary way, we have consulted with the Government of India and with other members of the Consortium. There is substantial agreement among Consortium members on the major points of our proposal:

--Meeting food needs of India during this emergency should be accepted as an international responsibility in which each nation should share;

--Emergency food and food-related aid should be coordinated through the World Bank Consortium;

--This aid should not diminish the flow of resources for other development programs. It should be in addition to the targets for each country suggested by the World Bank.

Adding food aid to the responsibilities of the Consortium is sound economics and fair burden-sharing. The Consortium provides a proper channel for the food and food related aid of donors who have not previously been involved in the food field. It will make clear that food provided from outside is as much a real contribution to Indian development as capital for specific projects or foreign exchange assistance for import programs.

Second: Should this program be established, we will support the Indian Consortium as it:

--Undertakes a detailed projection of Indian food production and food aid requirements;

--Prepares a program for non-food imports required to meet food production targets, as the basis for determining the equitable share of each donor;

--Reviews India's self-help efforts, reports regularly on progress and identifies areas for future concentration of energies.

Third: We must take prompt action to help India meet its emergency food needs. Our best present estimate is that India needs deliveries of 10 million tons of food grains this year or roughly $725 million worth of food. 2.3 million tons, worth roughly $185 million, are already in the pipeline from a number of countries, including our own. To keep food in the pipeline, I am making an immediate allocation of 2 million tons, worth nearly $150 million, to tide India over while the Congress acts.

I recommend that Congress approve a commitment to share fully in the international effort to meet India's remaining food grain deficit of 5.7 million tons--worth about $400 million. To that end, I recommend a U.S. allocation of an additional amount of food grain, not to exceed 3 million tons, provided it is appropriately matched by other countries. I recommend that approximately $590 million available to the Commodity Credit Corporation in calendar 1967 be used for this purpose. These funds, if allotted, will have to be replenished by appropriation in Fiscal 1968.

Fourth: I recommend your approval of an allocation of $25 million in food commodities for distribution by CARE and other American voluntary agencies, to assist the Government of India in an emergency feeding program in the drought areas of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Fifth: We hope other donors will accelerate their exports of fertilizers to India.

Unless the application of chemical fertilizers rises sharply in India, she will not be able to meet her food grain targets. Those fertilizer targets are ambitious, yet they must be met and if possible, exceeded. Marshalling more fertilizer imports is as important to meeting India's emergency as gathering additional grain. India herself must take prompt steps to increase her fertilizer investment and production and improve its distribution.

Sixth: I propose for the longer run to continue encouraging U.S. private investors to participate in India's program to expand production of chemical fertilizers. We will urge other governments to encourage their own producers.

Seventh: We intend to pursue other initiatives in the broader context of world agricultural development:

--We shall continue to press for multilateral efforts in every international forum in which we participate, including the current negotiations to establish a food aid program as part of an International Cereals Arrangement.

--We shall continue our policy of encouraging private capital and technology to join the War on Hunger.

--We shall press for the creation of an investment guarantee fund by the OECD to encourage private investment in the agricultural industries of developing countries.

--We shall make available to food deficit nations the technology our scientists have now developed for producing fish protein concentrate.

--We shall look to the study by the President's Science Advisory Committee on the problems of food production to supply further and more definitive guidelines for near-term action and for long-range planning.

None of these steps can be as important as Indian resolve and Indian performance. The Indian Government is committed to a bold program of agricultural modernization. That program is the foundation for the entire international effort to help India. We believe that a self-reinforcing process of improvement is under way in India, affecting both agricultural techniques and government administration. On the basis of that conviction, we can move forward to do our share under the Food for Freedom Program of 1966.


I believe these proposals are in our national interest. I believe that they reflect the deepest purposes of our national spirit.

I am asking the Congress, and the American people, to join with me in this effort and in an appeal to all the nations of the world that can help. I am asking the Congress to consider thoroughly my recommendations and to render its judgment. The Executive Branch, this Nation and other nations will give full attention to the contributions that Congressional debate may produce.

There are many legitimate claims on our resources. Some may question why we devote a substantial portion to a distant country.

The history of this century is ample reply. We have never stood idly by while famine or pestilence raged among any part of the human family. America would cease to be America if we walked by on the other side when confronted by such catastrophe.

The great lesson of our time is the inter. dependence of man. My predecessors and I have recognized this fact. All that we and other nations have sought to accomplish in behalf of world peace and economic growth would be for naught if the advanced countries failed to help feed the hungry in their day of need.

The White House
February 2, 1967

Note: For the President's statement upon signing a resolution providing additional emergency food for India, see Item 153.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Special Message to the Congress on Food for India and on Other Steps To Be Taken in an International War on Hunger. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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